Contemporary First Peoples Composers

Australia holds one of the oldest living cultures in the world, and First Nations music making is the oldest continuing form of music making.

For the Songs of Home exhibition, Museums of History NSW collaborated with five talented contemporary First Peoples composers to create five unique new compositions. Commissioned and recorded exclusively for the exhibition, these remarkable pieces can be heard in the exhibition and on our website.

The talented composers come from a diverse range of musical backgrounds. Brenda Gifford, Tim Gray, Troy j Russell, Elizabeth Sheppard and Nardi Simpson worked closely with us to create the pieces, which speak directly to the exhibition’s themes of country and dispossession, and to their own personal interpretations of ‘home’.

The collaboration was supported by the Ngarra‑burria First Peoples Composers initiative, a program founded by Darug man, composer and mentor Chris Sainsbury. The songs were performed by musicians from the Royal Australian Navy Band alongside other artists, and were recorded by ABC Classic.

Listen now

Past exhibition

Past exhibition

Songs of Home

Songs of Home tells the little-known story of music played and enjoyed in NSW during the first 70 years of the colony

Published on 


Illustrated portrait of woman with hair up in bun, wearing dark dress - framed by title of sheet music and publishing details.

From the collection: Catherine Hayes illustration

This sheet music cover is the only known copy of this illustration of the soprano Catherine Hayes (1818–1861), one of the world’s first international opera and concert stars

White signpost with several signs pointing in different directions.
Songs of home

Jane Austen: at home with music

Jane Austen’s music albums provide a new understanding of the use of music in the author’s work and the importance of music making in the Regency home

Theo Small (flute), Associate Professor Neal Peres Da Costa, Esther Kim (piano) and Jemma Thrussell (cello) from the Historical Performance Unit, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, in the drawing room at Elizabeth Bay House
Songs of home

Playing our song

Music offers a unique window into our past, and the stories and collections of our properties contain compelling clues about the music played by earlier generations